Timeline: Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Born in Atlanta as Michael King, Martin Luther King, Jr. advanced civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the less than 13 years of King's leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced, according to the King Center.

Notable events from MLK's life


Jan. 15: Michael King is born in Atlanta. His father changes the boy’s name, as well as his own, to Martin Luther King several years later.

ATLANTA - JULY 27: Hundreds line up for 'open house' at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home in Atlanta, Georgia on July 27, 2019. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)


Sept. 20: King enrolls at Morehouse College after passing the entrance exam at age 15.


Aug. 6: The Atlanta Constitution publishes a letter to the editor from King supporting minority rights.


Feb. 25: King is ordained and becomes assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, his father’s church.

June 8: King graduates from Morehouse College with bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Sept. 14: King enters Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa.


May 8: King graduates from Crozer with bachelor of divinity degree. He delivers valedictory address.

Sept. 13: King begins graduate studies in systematic theology at Boston University’s School of Theology.


January: King meets Coretta Scott in Boston.


June 18: King and Coretta Scott are married near Marion, Ala. King’s father officiates at the service.

OSLO, NORWAY: Coretta Scott King and her husband Martin Luther King 09 December 1964 in Oslo where the US clergyman and civil rights leader received 10 December the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King was assassinated on 04 April 1968 in Memphis, T


Sept. 1: King begins his pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.


June 5: King earns doctorate from Boston University.

Dec. 5: King is named president of the Montgomery Improvement Association.


Jan. 30: King’s home is bombed while he is speaking at a meeting. His wife and daughter are unharmed.


Jan. 10: King is named chairman of what becomes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Feb. 18: King appears on the cover of Time magazine.

May 17: King delivers his first national address, "Give Us the Ballot," at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

17th May 1957: Back view of American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968), dressed in black robes and holding out his hands towards the thousands of people who have gathered to hear him speak near the Reflect


June 23: King and other civil rights leaders meet with President Dwight Eisenhower in Washington.

Sept. 20: At a book signing in Harlem, King is stabbed with a letter opener  by a mentally ill woman. Doctors remove the seven-inch blade from his chest.

(Original Caption) 9/20/1958-New York, NY: Dr. Emil A. Naclerio stands at the bedside of negro leader Rev. Martin Luther King in Harlem Hospital here Sept. 21st after a 3 hour operation to remove a knife from his chest. King was allegedly stabbed by


Feb. 1: King moves from Montgomery to Atlanta to focus on the civil rights struggle.

Oct. 19: King is arrested at a sit-in demonstration at an Atlanta department store. He is sentenced to four months of hard labor — for violating a suspended sentence in a 1956 traffic violation. He is released on $2,000 bond.


Dec. 16: King and hundreds of others are arrested in desegregation campaign in Albany, Ga.


July 27: King is arrested at a prayer vigil in Albany and spends two weeks in jail. He leaves Aug. 10.

Sept. 28: A member of the American Nazi Party hits King in the face twice at an SCLC conference in Birmingham.


April 16: After being arrested for ignoring an Alabama state court injunction against demonstrations, King writes his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, a defense of nonviolent resistance to racism.

Aug. 28: King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial as more than 200,000 demonstrators take part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Martin Luther King Jr., gives his "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. The widely quoted speech became one of his most famous.

Sept. 15: Four girls are killed when a bomb explodes at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Sept. 18: King delivers eulogy for three of the slain girls.


Jan. 3: Time magazine names King "Man of the Year" for 1963.

June 11: King and 17 others are jailed for trespassing after demanding service at a whites-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Fla.

Dec. 10: King wins Nobel Peace Prize.


March 17-25: After voting rights marchers are attacked and beaten by police in Selma, Ala., King peacefully leads civil rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery.

Aug. 11: Rioting in the Watts section of Los Angeles leads King to address economic inequality.

Aug. 12: King gives his first speech against the Vietnam War.


Jan. 26: King and his wife move into a Chicago slum apartment to demand better housing and education in northern U.S. cities.

5/26/1966-ORIGINAL CAPTION READS: Close-up of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shown in this photo headshoulders, alone.


April 4: In speech at a New York City church, King demands U.S. make greater effort to end Vietnam War.

Dec. 4: King unveils plans for a Poor People’s Campaign, a mass civil disobedience protest, for the spring in Washington. It was intended as an expansion of his civil rights activities into the area of economic rights.


March 23: King leads 6,000 protesters in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis. The march ends with violence and looting.

April 3: King returns to Memphis, intending to lead a peaceful march. At an evening rally, he delivers his final speech, "I’ve Been to the Mountaintop."

April 4: King is shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

April 9: King is buried in Atlanta.

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 23: Tombs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, in Atlanta, Georgia on NOVEMBER 23, 2013. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)